In an irreverent, but sensitive way, Christopher Moore gives us his ideas about what occurred during the “lost” years of Christ's life in his novel “Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal.”
As the title suggests, “Lamb” is told from the perspective of Jesus’ best friend, Biff, who had been brought back to life at the request of the Messiah some 2,000 years after his crucifixion. Under the close supervision of the angel Raziel, Biff is locked in a hotel room in modern-day St. Louis until he provides an account of Jesus’ childhood and young adulthood. Throughout the book, Jesus is referred to as Joshua.
Joshua and Biff grow up like most kids did in Roman-occupied Nazareth…sort of. They first meet at age six when Biff spots Joshua raising a lizard from the dead. As they hit their teenage years, the duo becomes a trio with the addition of Maggie who represents Mary Magdalene. The three of them use their creativity to push back on the heavy Roman rule. On one occasion, they attempt to circumcise a Roman statue of Apollo. And, eventually, they get caught up in a curious love triangle, where Biff loves Maggie, Maggie loves Joshua, and Joshua is sworn to celibacy.
As a young adult, Joshua embarks on a journey to find the three Magi who will teach him how to become the Messiah. Believing that Joshua is innocent to the point of being naïve, Biff insists on going along to protect his friend. Joshua and Biff’s quest, lasting about a decade, takes them to China and India where Joshua learns tricks like how to multiply food and how to become invisible. Admittedly, their quest is my least favorite part of the book. It was interesting enough, but I was glad when Joshua and Biff returned to Nazareth.
Upon their return, Joshua fulfills his destiny as the Son of God. At this point, "Lamb" follows the events laid out in the synoptic gospels—but with a twist. For example, when Joshua raises Lazarus from the dead, Lazarus, while very grateful to be alive again, doesn't feel he is presentable enough to come out of the cave and says, "I'm all icky." Frustrated, Joshua tells Lazarus to get his “leprous” butt out of the cave. Lazarus still refuses. So, Joshua runs into the cave and with one look at Lazarus he quickly agrees that Lazarus could indeed use some "freshening up.”
When Joshua is arrested and put on trial during Passover, Maggie and Biff try desperately to prevent his death. As you can imagine, Biff is furious with Judas for betraying Joshua. And, Biff's love for his friend prevents him from understanding Joshua's decision to forgive Judas. Overcome with anger and despair after witnessing Joshua's crucifixion, Biff kills Judas. But, just like the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, the Crucifixion isn’t the end of Moore’s novel. In a similar way, it concludes with an emphasis on redemption and hope.
David Bross lives in Williamsport. He’s a retired elementary school teacher.